ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- In the wake of recent reports confirming that avian flu (also known as bird flu) has spread from Siberia into other parts of Russia, a new poll has found that a majority (53 percent) of U.S. adults are either not very or not at all familiar with this virus and that a large number (41 percent) are not very or not at all concerned that the United States might be part of an avian flu pandemic in the near future. Despite this lack of familiarity and concern, majorities of adults believe that particular steps should be taken to prepare for a potential pandemic. These are some of the results of a Harris Interactive online survey of 2,236 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 3-5, 2005 for The Wall Street Journal.
While half (51 percent) of adults say they are very or somewhat concerned that the United States might be part of an avian flu pandemic in the near future (this increases to 60 percent for those who are familiar with avian flu), similar or larger numbers say it will be important to take certain steps in an effort to prepare for a pandemic. Majorities of all adults say it will be absolutely essential or very important to:
-- Develop plans to quickly provide critical medical supplies to areas of the globe that experience outbreaks of avian flu (71 percent)
-- Develop plans to limit the spread of avian flu via quarantines, travel restrictions, etc. (65 percent)
-- Invest government dollars in the development and production of avian flu vaccines (61 percent)
-- Stockpile antiviral drugs that might slow an outbreak of avian flu (62 percent)
-- Stockpile critical medical supplies (like surgical masks and gloves) that can help slow the spread of avian flu (55 percent)
The public is split on how prepared they think the United States is to deal with an avian flu pandemic should it occur. Two in five (40 percent) adults think the United States is very or somewhat prepared to deal with a pandemic of this type while 44 percent think it is not very or at all prepared. A further 16 percent do not know enough to have an opinion. However, among those who are familiar with avian flu, the percentage who thinks the United States is not very or not at all prepared to deal with a flu pandemic increases to 51 percent.